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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER             63

of Persia, and Aristophanes of Greece. Athens would be
infinitely poorer had there been no Aristophanes, and the
Chinese intellectual heritage would be infinitely less rich had
there been no Chuangtse.

Since Chuangtse lived and wrote, however, all Chinese
politicians and bandits have become great humorists, because
they have been imbued, directly or indirectly, with the Chuang-
tsean view of life. Laotse had laughed before him, a thin,
shrill yet cataclysmic laughter. He must have been a bachelor
all his life, or he could not have laughed so roguishly. Anyway
there is no record that he ever married or had any progeny.
The last coughs of Laotse's laughter were caught up by
Chuangtse and he, being a younger man, had a richer voice,
and the ring of his laughter has reverberated throughout the
ages. We still cannot resist a chance to laugh, yet sometimes
I feel we are carrying the joke too far, and laugh a little out of
season.

The abysmal ignorance of the foreigner about China and
the Chinese cannot be more impressive than when he asks the
question: Do the Chinese have a sense of humour? It is really
as surprising as if an Arab caravan were to ask: Are there sands
in the Sahara desert? It is strange, however, how little a person
may see in a country. Theoretically, at least, the Chinese
people should have humour, for humour is born of realism;
and the Chinese are an unusually realistic people. Humour
is born of common sense, and the Chinese have an overdose
of common sense. Humour, especially Asiatic humour, is
the product of contentment and leisure, and the Chinese have
contentment and leisure to a supreme degree. A humorist
is often a defeatist, and delights in recounting his own failures
and embarrassments, and the Chinese are often sane, cool-
minded defeatists. Humour often takes a tolerant view of vice
and evil and instead of condemning them, laughs at them, and
the Chinese have always been characterized by the capacity
to tolerate evil. Toleration has, then, a good and a bad side,
and the Chinese have both of them. If the characteristics of
the Chinese race we have discussed aboveŚcommon sense,
toleration, contentment and old rogueryŚare true, then
humour is inevitable in China.